Part One
  Map Reading

  Reading Topographical Maps Introduction 1. HOME

  Topographical Maps - Definition, Purpose and Categories 2. Maps

  Information in the margins of an army map 3. Marginal Information    and Symbols

  Latitude, Longitude and Other Methods to Locate Points on Topographic Maps 4. Grids

  Translating Distance on a Topographic Map to Distance on the Ground 5. Scale and Distance

  Grid North, Azimuth, Declination And Other Concepts Used To Find Direction With Topographic Maps 6. Direction

  Overlays - Used Primarily In Army Map Reading 7. Overlays

  Aerial Photographs - Supplements And Substitutes For Topographic Maps 8. Aerial Photographs

 Part Two
  Land Navigation

  Using Compass, GPS, Sun, Shadows, and Stars in Land Navigation 9. Navigation Equipment    and Methods

  Reading The Shape Of The Land In Topographic Maps 10. Elevation and Relief

  Orienting and Navigating With Topographic Maps 11. Terrain Association

  Mounted Land Navigating With Motorized Vehicles 12. Mounted Land    Navigation

  Land Navigation In Different Types of Terrain 13. Navigation in    Different Types of    Terrain

  Sketching Topographic Maps A. Field Sketching

  Folding Topographic Maps B. Map Folding     Techniques

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps C. Units of Measure and      Conversion Factors

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps D. Joint Operations      Graphics

  US Army Training Material for Map Reading and Land Navigation E. Exportable Training      Material

  Orienteering F. Orienteering

  US Army M2 Compass G. M2 Compass

  Additional Aids such as Night Vision Goggles and Global Positioning System or GPS H. Additional Aids      (GPS, Night Vision)

  Global Positioning System -  GPS J. Global Positioning      System - GPs


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The M2 compass (Figure G-1) is a rustproof and dustproof magnetic instrument that provides slope, angle of site, and azimuth readings. One of the most important features of the M2 compass is that it is graduated in mils and does not require a conversion from degrees to mils as does the M1 compass. It can be calibrated to provide a grid azimuth or it can be used uncalibrated to determine a magnetic azimuth.

Figure G-1. M2 compass.

Figure G-1. M2 compass.


Except for the magnetic needle and its pivot, the compass is made of nonmagnetic materials. When the cover is closed, the magnetic needle is automatically lifted from its pivot and held firmly against the glass window. When the compass is open and leveled, the needle floats freely upon its pivot and points to magnetic north. Note that both ends of the needle are shaped like an arrow, and that one arrow is painted white and the other is black. It is the white end of the needle that points to magnetic north. Because the needle is magnetic, it will also be attracted to large iron or steel objects in the near vicinity, to electrical power lines, and to operating generators (see paragraph 9-3b). Magnetic compass readings measured near such objects are apt to be in error due to the magnetic attraction of these objects.


The M2 compass has a circular level that is used to level the instrument when measuring azimuths. The circular level bubble must be centered before reading the azimuth. The compass is equipped with front and rear sights for aligning on the object to which the azimuth is desired.


The compass azimuth scale is a circle divided into 6400 mils. Beginning with zero, the graduations are numbered every 200 mils. The long, unnumbered graduations appearing halfway between the numbered graduations are the odd-numbered hundreds (100, 300, 500, and so forth). Short graduation marks divide each 100-mil segment into equal portions of 20 mils.

a.   Reading the Azimuth Scale. Azimuths are read from the azimuth scale from the black end of the compass needle.

b.   Setting Up the Compass. To set up the M2 compass, open the cover and fold the rear sight holder out parallel with the face of the compass. Fold the rear sight up, perpendicular with its holder. Fold the front sight up, parallel with the mirror. Then fold the cover (mirror) toward the compass until it is at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the face of the compass so that, with your eye behind the rear sight, the black end of the compass needle can be readily viewed in the mirror. The compass is now set up for measuring an azimuth.

c.   Measuring an Azimuth. Once the compass is set up and all steel objects are at least 18 meters away from your position, you are ready to measure an azimuth. Hold the compass in both hands at eye level with your arms braced against your body and with the rear sight nearest your eyes. Sight through the rear sight and the window in the mirror and align the hairline at the reflection of the face of the compass. Center the circular level bubble. With the bubble centered and the hairline aligned on the object, look at the mirror reflection of the compass scale and read the azimuth to which the black end of the needle is pointing. Remember, magnetic attractions or movement by you may cause errors in your readings.




Map Reading and Land Navigation Buy the book this website is based on: Map Reading and Land Navigation

This website is based on the US Army Field Manual: "Map Reading and Land Navigation" Buy a copy from to take with you out in the field.


Book Review - Be Expert with Map and Compass

One of the best ways to learn and become proficient in any subject is to find a way to make a game or sport of it. That's exactly what orienteering does! Orienteering began to develop almost 100 years ago in the Scandinavian countries as a fun and effective method for military training in land navigation. Bjorn Kjellstrom was closely involved with the early development of orienteering, and he is the person who introduced the sport to North America. He, along with his brother Alvar, and a friend named Gunnar Tillander, invented the modern orienteering compass. They manufactured and marketed it as the Silva Protractor compass. This compass, along with Bjorn's book Be Expert with Map and Compass, made it much easier for anyone to learn how to use a map and compass.

This book has become the most widely read classic on the subject of map reading, compass use, and orienteering. Over 500,000 copies have been sold in the english language editions alone. There have been very successful editions published in French, Italian, and other languages as well. It is a short (just over 200 pages), easy to read, enjoyable book that can help you to have fun while you learn the subject quickly and effectively.

The book is organized into four main parts, plus a short, useful introduction. Part 1 covers having fun with maps alone. Then, Part 2 covers having fun with a compass alone. Part 3 puts it together and shows you how to have fun with a map and compass together. This section also introduces the game or sport of orienteering. Part 4 covers competitive orienteering for those who would like to compete with others in the sport.

A reproduction of a segment of an actual topographic map is included as a fold-out in the back of the book. It is used together with the "how-to" instructions the book provides. For example, one of the exercises in Part 3 is an imaginary orienteering "hike" that uses the sample map.

If you would like to have one of the best books available on map reading and using a compass, Be Expert with Map and Compass is hard to beat. You can buy a copy from today.

Read a book review of Agincourt

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